|Courtesy BYU Photo|
The BYU Cougars are just one game away from bowl eligibility after a convincing 35-16 win over the UMass Minutemen. After falling behind 10-0 early, BYU ran off 35 straight points to put the game out of reach early in the fourth quarter.
The Cougars gave the Minutemen two gifts that allowed them to get their two early scores. On the game's opening drive, Isaiah Kaufusi was flagged for a facemask penalty after the BYU defense stopped UMass on 3rd and 18. That kept the drive alive. It ended in a field goal.
The second gift came on BYU's first offensive play of the game. The BYU ball carrier fumbled, and UMass recovered just 31 yards away from the end zone. It took UMass six plays to cover that distance and create a double-digit lead with 4:12 left in the first quarter.
Maybe it was nerves from playing on the New England Patriots' home field. Maybe it was the early start (10 AM Mountain Standard Time). Maybe it was a hangover from the emotional loss in Boise last week. Whatever it was, the Cougars were able to shake it off.
BYU's second offensive possession covered 69 yards in just four plays. Zach Wilson had a 36-yard run followed by a 25-yard pass to Dallin Holker. A four-yard toss to Talon Shumway finished the drive.
The excitement died down for most of the rest of the first half. BYU and UMass combined for six consecutive punts. That was followed by UMass getting stopped on downs at the BYU 32.
Following the defensive stop, BYU's offense came back to life. Highlighted by a Matt Hadley 26-yard run, the Cougars' drive found the end zone again on another Wilson to Shumway connection. This time from 15 yards out.
That gave BYU a 14-10 lead with less than two minutes to play in the first half.
True to their name, the Minutemen quickly got into scoring position. However, their 36-yard field goal attempt missed as time expired.
After both teams exchanged punts to start the second half, BYU capitalized on big plays again to extend the lead. Squally Canada got loose for a 25-yard run, and Neil Pau'u hauled in a 40-yard catch. That moved the Cougars to the UMass 10-yard line. Three straight Hadley runs got BYU in the end zone.
Two UMass punts sandwiched a BYU punt before BYU really put the game out of reach by scoring touchdowns on its next two possessions. Both were runs by Aleva Hifo, three and 10 yards, respectively. The second touchdown was set up by a UMass punt for zero yards.
With 12:47 to play, BYU led 35-10.
UMass was able to score one more touchdown with 5:17 to play, but failed to convert on the two-point try. BYU ran the clock out after that.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Neil Pau'u diving 40-yard catch on fleaflicker.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Sione Takitaki - 14 tackles, 2 TFL.
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